Letters

Letters 09-29-2014

Benishek Doesn’t Understand

Congressman Benishek claims to understand the needs of families, yet he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause about 10 million people to lose their health insurance. He must think as long as families can hold fundraisers they don’t need insurance...

(Un)Truth In Advertising

Constant political candidate ads on TV are getting to be too much to bear 45 days before the election...

Rare Tuttle Rebuttal

Finally, I disagree with Stephen Tuttle. His “Cherry Bomb” column in the 8/4/14 issue totally dismayed me. I always love his wit and the slamming of the 1 percent. His use of fact and hyperbole highlights the truth; until “Cherry Bomb.” Oh man, Stephen...

Say No To Fluoride

Do you or your child’s teeth have white, yellow, orange, brown, stains, spots, streaks, cloudy splotches or pitting? If so, you may be among millions of Americans who now have a condition called dental fluorosis...

Questions Of Freedom

The administration’s “Affordable Health Care Act” has ordered religious orders to provide contraception and chemical abortions against the church’s God given beliefs and teachings … an interesting order, considering the First Amendment’s clear prohibitions...

Stop The Insults & Talk

I found it interesting that Ms. Minervini used the Northern Express to push the Safe Harbor agenda for a 90-bed homeless shelter in Traverse City with a tactic that is also being utilized by members of the city commission. Those of us who oppose the project are being labeled as uncompassionate citizens...

Roads and Republicans

Each time you hit a road crater while driving, thank the “nerd” and the Tea Party controlled Republican legislature.

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The Nanny Diaries Offers an Underdog‘s Glimpse of Park Avenue

Nancy Sundstrom - June 27th, 2002
“Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless-bordering on masochistic Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived pre-schooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employer‘s Hermes bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.“

Who wouldn‘t want that job, you might ask, the above being from the jacket of “The Nanny Diaries,“ a glitzy train wreck of a novel that defies you constantly to put it down.
It holds many points of fascination, with its detailed, insider’s look into the Park Avenue apartments where women wouldn’t be seen without being draped in Prada, children attend Mommy and Me groups with their sitters and peers named Brandford and Darwin, and fathers, when they deign to make their presences known at all, are stunningly oblivious to the needs of their families.
Welcome to the world of “The Nanny Diaries,“ an instantly addictive read that manages to be - all at the same time - hilarious, complex, befuddling, riotous, poignant, and more than a bit sad, much like child-rearing itself.
Written by two former Manhattan nannies, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, who bill this as a work of fiction though much of it seems to ring way too true, even for those in the unwashed masses that include this reviewer, this best-selling novel charts the path of a nanny by the same name who is attempting to find a job that is compatible with her child development classes at NYU.
This modern-day Mary Poppins finds herself in the employ of the remarkably self-possessed and absorbed Mrs. X and her infidel husband Mr. X, looking after four-year-old Grayer, a genuinely good child who seems destined for neuroses, if for no other reason than that he has a schedule built around esteem groups, ice skating and French lessons, and teachers who want Nanny’s “methodology“ for dressing him each morning.
As the book opens, we meet Nanny as she makes a visit to the posh Parents League, looking for work:

“I tune out the officious, creamy chatter of the women behind me to read the postings put up by other nannies also in search of employment.

“Babysitter need children very like kids vacuums“
“I look your kids Many years work You call me“

The bulletin board is already so overcrowded with flyers that, with a twinge of guilt, I end up tacking my ad over someone else’s pink paper festooned with crayon flowers, but spend a few minutes ensuring that I’m only covering daisies and none of her pertinent information.
I wish I could tell these women that the secret to nanny advertising isn’t the decoration, it’s the punctuation - it’s all in the exclamation mark. While my ad is a minimalist three-by-five card, without so much as a smiley face on it, I liberally sprinkle my advertisement with exclamations, ending each of my desirable traits with the promise of a beaming smile and unflagging positivity.

Nanny at the Ready!
Chapin School alumna available weekdays part-time!
Excellent references!
Child Development Major at NYU!

The only thing I don’t have is an umbrella that makes me fly.
I do one last quick check for spelling, zip up my backpack, bid Alexis adieu, and jog down the marble steps out into the sweltering heat.
As I walk down Park Avenue the August sun is still low enough in the sky that the stroller parade is in full throttle. I pass many hot little people, looking resignedly uncomfortable in their sticky seats. They are too hot even to hold on to any of their usual traveling companions - blankets and bears are tucked into back stroller pockets. I chuckle to myself at the child who waves away the offer of a juice box with a flick of the head that says, “I couldn’t possibly be bothered with juice right now.“ “

Nanny settles in with the X family, and the games begin. The hilarious (and equally appalling) Mrs. X sees both her employee and her son as yet another status symbol, and subjects Nanny to a steady stream of bizarre demands, passive aggressive missives written on expensive stationery, and condescension. The family’s lifestyle gives a new meaning to the term “dysfunctional“ in a way not even Jonathan Franzen did in his amazing novel “The Corrections,“ though under these authors’ microscope, it’s a pretty frightening picture.
On the down side, there’s the disintegrating marriage of the X’s, Nanny’s 24-7 attempts to ensure that “a Park Avenue wife who doesn‘t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day,“ class struggle modern day servitude issues (since when does attending the preschool’s Family Day or helping aid and abet her employer in carrying on his extramarital affairs fall into one’s job description, both the reader and Nanny wonder?), and especially, the fragile emotional well being and psyche of her young charge.
On the up side, there’s the deepening bond that builds between Grayer and Nanny, who quickly emerges as one of the most consistent figures in his privileged, yet deprived young life. Were their relationship not as well-crafted and touching as it is, this might be a rather unpleasant read, but you come to care quickly about both, which contributes greatly to this thoroughly entertaining tell-all.
If you’re into audio books, check out Julia Roberts lending her voice to that version, and count on this making its way to the big screen in the not-too-distant future, possibly with Kate Hudson starring as Nanny. In the meantime, though, put “The Nanny Diaries“ on your summer reading list, sit back, and enjoy the book that has everyone - from Park Avenue wives to young women pregnant with their first child - buzzing.

 
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